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Stop Obsessing About Work All the Time

A revenge fantasy about your boss. Your to-do list. That flop of a meeting. You need to quit ruminating about your job. Here’s how to do it.

By RACHEL FEINTZEIG
Mon, Oct 9, 2023 9:05amGrey Clock 4 min

It’s one thing to work long hours. It’s another to surrender your free time to swirling thoughts of office predicaments and projects hanging over your head.

Many of us can’t let work go. It’s sinking our mental health and damaging our relationships. We need to shift the approach in our heads.

Joe Mellin thought maybe a week alone in the woods would do it. He journeyed by plane, bus and minivan to a remote pocket of Colorado for a program that coordinates solo wilderness excursions. Armed with a toothbrush, a journal and some dried split peas, the 41-year-old hunkered down to meditate and find out who he was.

Turned out, he was someone who really liked obsessing about his job.

“I was literally saying, Joe, you’re in Colorado, you’re off work, you’re in the middle of a forest, stop thinking about work,” the Washington-based tech worker recalls. By hour 36, in the quiet of his sleeping bag under the moon, he gave in. Soon he was sketching PowerPoint presentations in his journal, filling 20 pages with notes before he was finally able to let go.

Whether you’re on a spiritual quest in Colorado or at the playground with your kids, internally troubleshooting next week’s client pitch or entertaining revenge fantasies about a colleague, there’s a cost.

“You’re getting aggravated anew each time,” says Guy Winch, a psychologist and author who fashioned a TED Talk on the subject.

We often think we have to fix our jobs to relieve our work stress. “You might,” he says. “But fix you first.”

Break the cycle

Start by tracking how much time you’re spending ruminating about work, Winch says. For many of his patients, that’s 10 to 20 hours a week—after-hours. (At the office, we’re generally too busy doing the job to perseverate about it, he says.)

To stop the cycle, tax your mental capacity with something more complex than Netflix or a walk. Try a memory task like naming all 50 state capitals or recalling the items in your fridge, Winch suggests. Two to three minutes is often enough for a reset.

Then, channel what you had been obsessing about into something useful. Ask yourself: What’s the actual problem to be solved? If you’re worried about workload, can you delegate to teammates or decline meetings?

If there’s nothing to be done about the situation—some co-workers are just annoying—try to find the silver lining, Winch adds. Maybe this is the spark you finally need to find a new, better job. Maybe you’re building skills that will help you in the future.

When you are your job

We’re bombarded with emails, Slack messages and back-to-back Zoom calls during the day, so it’s no wonder we can’t turn off our brains when we shut the laptop. We mentally brace for pings of all kinds, even when they’re not coming.

And some of this is on us. So many employees have tied their identities to their jobs.

“They’ve defined their whole value this way, so it makes it that much harder to let go of things,” Rebecca Zucker, an executive coach, observes of some of her clients. “Something that goes badly at work can feel annihilating.”

Lauren Orcutt, a 36-year-old in Sacramento, Calif., loves being a copywriter. Some of her friends and family don’t love constantly hearing about it, she says.

“I think about it so much, it just comes out,” she explains.

She’s often up at 3 a.m., galvanised by an idea for a new blog post or needled by the realisation she messed up an email. “I kind of felt like I was working all night” for months, she says. Her sleep suffered.

To reclaim her brain space, Orcutt started jotting down her thoughts in a lavender notebook she now keeps on the nightstand. Mistakes that are plaguing her get their own page, which she rips out in the morning.

“I am going to throw it away and move on with my life,” she says. Even capturing the good ideas calms her, helping her drift back to sleep.

Reprioritise your life

Ruminating about work can make it hard to fall and stay asleep, and damage our mood and mental health, says Verena C. Haun, a professor at the Julius Maximilian University in Würzburg, Germany, who studies psychological detachment from work. Depleted, we often perform worse at work the next day.

She suggests marking the transition from work with a simple ritual, like washing out your coffee cup or changing clothes. Find a hobby, or three, that make you truly forget about work while you’re doing them. Set a goal, say, an hour spent gardening, especially on stressful work days.

You can’t think about work when you’re trying not to crash a boat, Jackie Hermes, the chief executive of a marketing firm, says she discovered. When the onset of the pandemic caused her business’s revenue to drop 40%, she rethought her relationship, once all-consuming, with her job.

“Is this really what I’m dedicating my entire life to?” she asked herself.

She doesn’t work less hours now, but she has changed how she thinks about work, allowing herself more flexibility and trying new things in her personal life. During the day, she’ll sometimes pop into the boating club she recently joined or catch a Milwaukee Brewers game at the ballpark.

“Work isn’t the only priority anymore,” she says, noting that so much about our jobs is out of our control anyway.

Now she tells herself, “I’m not behind. It’s always going to get done.”



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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .